Louisville Clemson Football

Louisville running back Tiyon Evans (7) runs with the ball for a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Clemson, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Sure, Louisville's football team fell to Clemson again, burying itself deeper in the ACC Atlantic Division standings and losing some of the momentum, swagger and respect it had built with a four-game winning streak. But the Cardinals (6-4, 3-4) still have plenty to play for as the season approaches the finish line.

Before you accuse me of plagiarism for lifting a page from the football coaches' manual of reliable fallback stances or over-the-top optimism, listen up.

While the Tigers brought the Cards crashing to earth, it could be a temporary setback because they can rise to heights unequaled in the short Scott Satterfield era if they can prevail in their last two regular-season games that look much more winnable than they did a month or so ago, and then tack on another victory in a bowl game.

 None of those three scenarios are out of the question, and if you're counting, that would be seven wins  in their last eight games and a final 9-4 record, which would equal the program's most wins since Lamar Jackson was running wild in 2016.

Neither of Louisville's two remaining opponents look as formidable as they once did. NC State (7-3, 3-3) hasn't been the same since losing standout quarterback Devin Leary to a season-ending injury in the sixth game of the season and eventually replacing him with true freshman MJ Morris. The Wolpack is just 2-2 since then and is coming off an embarrassing 21-20 home loss to lowly Boston College last week.

And Kentucky? The Wildcats, who were ranked in the top 10 at one time, have lost four of their last six -- including 24-21 against Vanderbilt last weekend in Lexington, and are probably headed for another defeat Saturday against No. 1 Georgia on the road.

"We want to win these last two games and come out with a really nice season with one of the more difficult schedules we've had in Louisville football," Satterfield said.

The Cards will launch their bid to get back on the right track for a strong finish against N.C. State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (ACCN) in Cardinal Stadium, where they are 4-1 this season.

"We obviously want to get a win because you're guaranteed a winning (regular) season with a win," Satterfield said. "It's big. It's an opportunity to win our last ACC game of the year and it's Senior Day for our 19 seniors who have been through a lot of adversity and continued to fight. So there's a lot riding on this game. We want to finish the season strong."

A victory would give U of L wins over four programs that were ranked at some point during the season. UK could make five and an 8-4 regular season record that would show progress from last year's 6-6 mark before a loss to Air Force in the First Responder Bowl. U of L has already qualified for a bowl, but another win or two would probably allow it to move up in the bowl pecking order.

Convinced yet?

Backup quarterback Brock Domann, who will get the start if Malik Cunningham is sidelined, and middle linebacker Momo Sanogo are convinced there will be no hangover from the disappointing loss at Clemson, noting that U of L hasn't lost back-to-back games this season.

"We have a lot to go get," Domann said. "I know we're going to bounce back. We're going to come out firing."

Said Sanogo: "This team's resilient. We play some of our best football after a loss, so we're gonna come back hard and go perform."

U of L's biggest problem against the Wolfpack, whether Cunningham plays or not, will be the visitors' attacking defense, which is one of the best in the country and is led by a trio of veteran linebackers who have accumulated a combined 815 tackles during their career, including 103 for a loss and 35 sacks.

In a close game, N.C. State will have the edge thanks to perhaps the nation's best kicker in Christopher Dunn, who is 20-for-20 this season, with a long of 53 yards and eight others between 40-49 yards.